Let me go on record by saying that I have never watched the famous musical «Les Miserables» but if its just half as good as this is, I'm eager to do so. This is a truly groundbreaking cartoon, and it only goes to show how awesome the results can be when real effort is put in the formula.
On September 27, 1993 «Les Miseranimals» was aired as the second half of the eleventh episode of Animaniacs! (the first one being «No Pain, No Painting») and was an instant success. Fans of the source material couldn't believe how good it was, fans of the show couldn't believe how good it was (and keep in mind that this was one of the first episodes they aired, making it look even more awesome in comparison) and my personal experience has led me to believe that most people can’t believe how good it is (I used a cartoon-hater friend as a guinea pig and he loved it).
This episode was animated by Tokyo Movie Shinsha (ya know, THE TMS) and it is often considered to be the best piece of animation that ever aired in this show (which, out of 99 episodes and a movie, says a LOT) and featured an all-star cast to do the voices. But the thing that really makes this episode stand out amongst pretty much anything else is that they -somehow- crammed the incredible number of twelve songs in its ten minutes of length (and every single one moves the story along). That was amazing and shows how much they cared about this, because fitting all those musical numbers in that tiny lenght wasn’t an easy task.
So, only a few seconds after the credits this toons begins to surprise you. It builds itself to the point that you just can´t guess who are the stars here (as far as we know, ANY character can be in charge of this episode). We see an impressive shot of «Le Pond» with some great rain and lighting effects, then a -really well done- animation of a solitary guard coming from the fog with his guard dog, then another shot of the inside of the prison, and finally we are back at the gates that -suddenly- breaks open in a cloud of dust hiding whoever is behind it... just to have Runt Val Runt in the center of the shot (accompanied by his signature tune). That scene leads to the first of all song we will be listening thru this, with the guard of the beginning emerging from the same gate in company of his dog. The guard then becomes a silhouette with bright eyes, and the attention is focused on the dog (named Camenbert) who then starts to sing close to the camera while the weather effects do a perfect lighting to his face. He is tracking down Val Runt, and won’t rest until capturing him.
Not long from there, at a restaurant near Paris, we see a pen full of cats lurking in the shadows with the same bright diabolic eyes than the guard before had. Right in the center of the room is none other than Rita (who is probably the least popular animal there) being harassed by the other cats, who hate her because she thinks herself better than them. Nobody has a lot of dialogue yet, but this episode is STILL building itself. Then we enter the aforementioned restaurant, where Monsieur Tristesse (the owner) is having a tough time with his customers, who accuse him of not puting actual meat in his meats pies. Then, they all leave the place enraged. Within seconds from there, Camenbert and his keeper enter the restaurant with a wanted sign in their hands, explaining that they are after Val Runt for stealing a bone and giving Tristesse the advice that, with the right spices, cats can be very tasty. It is amazingly funny how quickly Tristesse changes his mind from being disgusted by the idea of cooking defenseless cats to actually try to do it. To make matters worse, another cat has witnessed the whole thing and tells the tale to the his pals in the pen... who had already reflected about it and decided that they should give Rita to the mad chef. From this point on we are up to a musical trip that is backed by some terrific animation, great jokes, and lots of awesome dialogues.
For lots of reasons, «Les Miseranimals» remains as one of my all-time favorite episodes of ANY cartoon (not just this one). Every drawing seems like a lot of care was put into it, every dialogue is delivered with passion, and every song is an experience. There are some moments that are sincerely exciting, and a few instances in which you honestly can’t guess what is going to happen. On top of that, a large number of characters are giving the chance to sing and the results are never a letdown.
This was an episode that was mind blowing for me as a kid (being one of the only two I watched as a child -the other one being «Putting on the Blitz»-) even more mind blowing when I totally forgot about it for ages, and EVEN MORE mind blowing when I rediscovered it as an adult. I have watched this episode alone and with friends, at dawn and at dusk, in a chair and on the bus and I still love the heck out of it. Maybe I don't go from the beginning to the end of this cartoon very often, but there are lots of scenes that are memorable enough for make me come back... and that's a true sign of quality.
You guys HAVE to watch this episode, and I give you my word that you won’t be disappointed. Even if you don’t like it as a whole, there is still a pretty big chance that you will like something about it. It has an endless charm.
Still not convinced? Check out these songs: Lovely Ladies, Do you hear the Poodles bark?, My Flat in Gay Paree.
First Posted here: http://80scartoons.net/forum/viewtopic.php?p=26452#26452